The culmination of months of practice, was realized when the Special Olympics athletes throughout the state, who qualified to move forward from their local and sectional competitions, arrived at their sports venues during this year’s New Jersey Special Olympics Summer Games, which were held on Saturday, June 13 and Sunday, June 14. The majority of the sports competition venues are located on the campus of The College of New Jersey, with the exception of softball, which was held at Mercer County Parks, West Windsor and gymnastics, which were held at Schafer School of Gymnastics in Lawrenceville.
Over 2500 athletes participated in their chosen sports during the weekend, with the assistance of their dedicated coaches, volunteers and their daytime one-on-one escorts, who accompany them to their venues, the Wellness Center and Olympic Village. The athletes, coaches and chaperons all stay at The College of New Jersey campus and Rider University for the weekend. After a spectacular Opening Ceremonies on Friday night, with one of the largest crowds that this reporter has ever seen, the evening was highlighted by the finish of the Annual Law Enforcement Torch Run, the Parade of Athletes entering the stadium by Area, the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, Big Joe Henry and staff, from NJ 101.5, who provided the music for all to dance and sing along to and a grand fireworks display.
On the ball field, The Hunterdon Heat II softball team came in fourth place. “Although we lost all three of our games during the first level of Division 7 rounds, our athletes played with great determination and exhibited good sportsmanship. It was wonderful to see them utilize the skills they have been practicing all season,” said Coach Rosemarie Kowalchuk. Area 4’s Hunterdon Heat 1 team won both of their softball games, in Division 3, and were rewarded with gold medals. Softball athletes must participate in a mandatory number of games, which are also played in Mercer County Park, Mercerville, in April and May, in order to be eligible for Summer Games.
On the water front, the Hunterdon County YMCA Dolphins Aquatics Team brought back an impressive number of gold and bronze medals from Sunday’s competition. Swimmers from across the state compete against their peers based on their age and qualifying time brackets in each event. On the last day of competition, the first six swimmers competing in their first six events, all earned gold medals: Philip Sosidko in events 50M Freestyle and 25M Butterfly, Bailey Fluke in events 50M Backstroke and 50M Butterfly, Lindsay Fulop and Catherine Reischman in event 100M Butterfly, and Holly Harris in 50M Butterfly.
The 4×25 meter medley relay teams of Bailey Fluke, Halli Williams, Catherine Reischman and Tamaryn Lehman earned a Bronze medal. The 4×50 meter free relay teams of Philip Sosidko, Catherine Reischman, Halli Williams, and Bailey Fluke received Bronze medals.
Overall, the eleven swimmers who competed at the Games improved their times after striving to do their best this past year. “We challenged the athletes this season, to go beyond their comfort level and with a lot of hard work, the athletes produced amazing results,” said Coach Aphrodite Fluke. “The whole swim team did really well at these state games and I am so proud of them.” Head Coach JT Campbell and Coaches Rita Reid and Molly O’Brien are among the four coaches who assist the Dolphins at Summer Games.
Hunterdon County also had athletes participating in bocce, tennis and track and field at the Games. Special Olympics offer year-round sports for athletes who qualify and have a medical on file with the state. Contact Joyce Kirchin, Area 4 Director, at email@example.com or (908) 236-7807 if you would like to register an athlete, coach a sport, volunteer or sponsor an event.
Hunterdon Heat II softball team Picture, ID: First row Left to Right are: Mark Ennis, Alyssa Barna, Nick Kowalchuk, Nolan Rainey, and Anthony Felix.
Second Right row Left to Right are: Dave Robbins, Kyle Leh, Chad Ritter, David Tucker, Geralyn Kensek and Coach Rosemarie Kowalchuk.
Back row Left to Right are: Coach Bill Steiner, George Perrini and Jerome Pickett.
Dolphins Aquatics Team photo taken by Alicja Sosidko.
Left to Right: Catherine Reischman, Philip Sosidko, Halli Williams, and Bailey Fluke earned Bronze medals in the 4×50 meter Free Relay